With the recent advent of fall crashing into Champaign-Urbana, I developed a sudden need to visit a new local café and warm up. Opened in early October, Bossa Nova Café was founded by a family who recently moved from San Francisco to Champaign. With experience serving coffee and sandwiches on both the East and West Coast as well as the Midwest, the variety at Bossa Nova Café is certainly interesting. They sell the Venezuelan chocolate Chuao (pronounced chew-WOW), have pastries from our local Rick’s Bakery, and sell a variety of other imported snacks. For those not familiar with Chuao, their chocolates come in a variety of fun flavors, including: potato chip, honeycomb, waffle cone and rocky road caramel. I restrained myself from buying any this time, but having eaten Chuao chocolate in the past, I recommend it.
Regarding the atmosphere and seating, Bossa Nova Café did not disappoint. The café contains a variety of seating, ranging from singular window seats to large, wood work tables, as well as comfy arm chairs and smaller tables. With local art beautifully displayed on the walls, the space really comes together. Also, I want to take a minute to congratulate Bossa Nova Café on their amazing display cases. Artfully arranged, I almost felt bad taking anything off the shelves and disrupting the display.
After spending time admiring the space, I ordered a dark Guatemala coffee ($3.29, 12 oz.) to perk me up, along with a berry bacon sandwich with chips ($6.99 and $0.99 for chips). Proving the displayed menu accurate, the coffee had subtle undertones of dark chocolate and was served hot, but not scalding, so I drank my coffee within short order. With a wonderfully dark roast smell, I enjoyed this smooth coffee blend.
Suitably caffeinated, I was ready to try the rather interesting sandwich combination of strawberries and bacon. Suitably skeptical, I bit into the sandwich and was pleasantly surprised. Who knew that sweet strawberries and salty, savory bacon make such a great pairing? With the refreshing crunch of raw onions and a light coating of creamy mayonnaise, the berry bacon sandwich had a complex range of textures, a positive for me. Don’t be afraid to try a food out of your comfort zone, as it may surprise you just as this sandwich surprised me.
Still a bit hungry, I decided to take Bossa Nova Café up on their All-Day Breakfast offer and build my own grilled cheese sandwich ($6.19 after various additions). Choosing a croissant from Rick’s Bakery (Bossa Nova’s recipe) with swiss cheese, turkey and avocado, I was ready to see how my creation turned out. As I hoped, the croissant was perfectly flaky and clearly baked with ample butter. Going well with the rich croissant, I also enjoyed the creamy slices of avocado and mild swiss cheese, balanced out by the salty turkey. With no single flavor overriding any other, my sandwich proved to be a great comfort food and was the hearty meal I was looking for.
Wiping the crumbs off my hands, I settled down to enjoy the grand finale, Bossa Nova Café’s deluxious hot chocolate. Covered in an ample amount of whipped cream that was so thick it was surely made from scratch, I sat for nearly a minute just staring at the wonderful drink before me. Not wanting to let my hot chocolate sit so long that the cream melted completely, I slowly worked my way through the mountain of dairy goodness. Dusted with some of the hot chocolate mix, the whipped cream reminded me of melting vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup in consistency and richness. However, the real treat was still to come. Finally making it down to the hot chocolate, I took my first sip. Amazingly rich, drinking the deluxious brings one very close to drinking liquid chocolate. The smooth, chocolate texture is also consistent throughout the cup, without a layer of chocolate syrup or chocolate chips on the bottom as hot chocolate drinks sometimes fall victim to.
Before I knew it, I’d finished the rest of my hot chocolate and was walking back to my car. Although still very new, Bossa Nova Café had a bigger menu than I suspected. Furthermore, the owner let me sample some of their freshly squeezed orange juice. Although I did not end up ordering any juice, I appreciated the gesture. On a return visit, I plan on trying the spicy Maya hot chocolate for something with a bit more kick. I might even buy a piece of that Chauo chocolate to go with it if I have an especially strong sweet tooth that day. In the end, I recommend Bossa Nova Café to anyone who wants a place to relax and enjoy a varied menu with quality drinks.
Bossa Nova Cafe
1 East Main St, Suite 108
M-Sat 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Photos by Matthew Macomber